Posts tagged ‘poetry’

My candle burns at both ends

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Someone mentioned that poem a while ago (and I do mean a while – so I’ve been a negligent poster for a just a little while, and I rather liked it. The idea also fit me for a while – I was waking up early and going to bed late. There may have been reasons – one of my projects was truly balancing my checkbook for the first time in seven or eight years. A rather daunting prospect, made a little easier with some experiments in Ruby In the process, I discovered a few things – I was off by about $200 (thankfully such that I thought i had more money than the bank), when in doubt, the bank is right, and as to my original cause for inquiry, I was right. The invoicing was off for my organic produce delivery service. I think that they did not process the invoice for an accidental shipment. I informed them of the error and nothing happened, so either they didn’t believe me, or figured it was their mistake so the food was free. Of course I had to make a ‘free money’ entry (right after all the error corrections for the balancing) to offset my original deduction.

The other big event was attempting to change ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems at the company I work for. Unfortunately, the entire project was a little doomed from the start. A topic which, as I write, I see will turn into an extended digression.

So The Boss says we need change systems. Our current system is an industry specific package (I’m not going to get into the specifics), written in FoxPro. FoxPro itself, is, from what I can tell, fairly good system for database applications – on single computers. The model for extending it to to networks involves copying entire database files across the network – and if modified, copying them back to the server. This means it is both slow, and prone to occasional database error. The database is reindexed every night, and the program will actually warn you (with reason, we’ve found) if said process hasn’t run in 48 hours. Some errors still get through.

At least in the version we have; supposedly most of the problems have been worked around in the current version of the product. Unfortunately, in the murky past mostly before my time, the powers that be decided that the system updates were introducing more errors than they resolved and broke off relations with the vendor. Since then we’ve basically learned to put up with and work around the major shortcomings, and business gets done, albeit with vastly less efficiency then possible.

So, to recap, The Boss has realized that this can’t go on forever (hand crossed-out entries on accounting reports just don’t look so good, you know?) Meanwhile, I”m a little short on programming projects and see a problem to be solved. So begins a year or so of cursory evaluation of a good proportion of every system that might fit our needs. Of course, when you get down to it, I have no idea what I’m doing, nor does anyone else involved. Which isn’t much. The Boss decided it should be done, and I set out to do it, with some assistance from a co-worker. The rest of the people at the company aren’t bothered by the accounting errors much and have gotten used to the current system – support for evaluation and testing has been extremely minimal.

I’m wandering a bit, but I’m trying to keep a very long story not so long. We eventually choose a system. (Global Shop) It appeared to have a wide range of features, some of our people thought it looked best of the short list, and they had a quote to develop some of our industry-specific functionality. Of course, from what I’ve written above it should come as no surprise that we made at least our fair share of beginners mistakes in choose a system. To skip ahead a bit, Global Shop developed out of a metal job shop market. This a labor intensive type of business. We, as circuit board assemblers, are a materials intensive type of business. We knew this going in, but didn’t realize just how deep this issues was. In the end, the inefficiency of the stock room systems had us so far behind that we had to shut down they new system and continue on with our old one.

That was mid-January. The ‘go-live’ date handed to us was was the beginning of December. This of course made no allowance for the lack of testing support, or the incompleteness of data conversion. Actually the data conversion was ‘okay.’ I found a bunch of Perl database modules and set up a nice little conversion system. I also ran into a lot of Perl’s rough edges, and, provided equivalent modules might try such in thing in Ruby if starting it today (the regular expressions being a big draw to both languages)

But I digress. The point, at long last, is that there was over a month of system investigation, user support, live system data patching, and report writing. The great flood of issues nobody could be bothered to discover beforehand had me in early, out late, often in on weekends. The odd thing was I kind of enjoyed it; something, perhaps only a little, seemed like an aspect of my true calling. Something about people, who I know, suffering inconveniences (which I am in some part responsible for), which I, somewhat uniquely, have the power to resolve. As for the weekends, I would often get up and start trying to read something, only to find I was thinking about the current problems instead of what I was reading. If I was thinking about them anyway, I figured i might as well fix them.

Sometimes I think that my current practice of flitting from from one activity to another is sub-optimal; I often like to dive into a project and forget about the world for a while.

So many things

So many things, have ur-gen-cy.
So many things, are crying for mercy.
So many things, are desperately needed.

I came on here the other night with something like that in my head. I was thinking of all the solicitations from charities I’ve been getting lately, and all of the causes that called them into existence.

But I stopped to check in on some of the less frequent posters to my friends list, and discovered a personal crisis that just seemed to reinforce the sentiment.

I think I’ve been a little down recently anyway; perhaps it was an oncoming sore throat. I may have felt it slightly the last few days, but Friday I was a little out of it; that got better as the day wore on, but sore throat and cough also reached that point where I had to acknowledge them.

I had been planing to go on a trip for martial arts this weekend, but decided that spreading a virus around Iowa wouldn’t really help anything; ;^)

I have been feeling a little bet better, and it seems almost hard to feel down on a nice sunny day. I’m somewhat torn between going out to enjoy the weather, or taking rest in light of my illness.

Meanwhile, finally executing an idea I had some time ago, I’ve started keeping a food diary. Between all the talk about carbohydrates, diary, and wheat, I’ve been curious if any of these things really have an effect.


Thursday night (well, Friday morning) at nearly 1 am I returned from San Diego. I suppose it would have only been 11pm if I was still in San Diego ;^)

It was a business trip, setting the prototype units up for another show (-National Indian Gaming Association.) Monday night we shipped of all the test equipment, thereby cutting off certain areas of development that required actual systems to run on. Tuesday afternoon around 1:30 we left for the airport. My boss, the only person traveling with me, thought we needed to leave early to miss rush hour – the flight left at 5:00. I guess we missed it ;^)

Actually, this fails to properly impress our schedule upon the reader.

Last Friday we shipped several parts out to our Las Vegas office, which still had the cabinets and such from the last show. Either Sunday night or Monday morning, our production manager flew out that office to put those parts into the cabinet. Tuesday morning, he received the critical components that we shipped out Monday night, installed them, and put the games on a U-HAUL to drive to San Diego and meet us at the hotel.

Tuesday night, shortly before 10pm San Diego time, we arrive at the airport. (That’s midnight back home, for those keeping track.) Then all of us get up Monday morning, take the game down to the convention center and get them out to the booth (accelerated, I understand, by the assistance of Mr. Jackson.) There we set the games up, and install certain other critical components, which had been shipped to Las Vegas the first time, shipped back for programming, and then hand carried by myself on the plane.

Whereupon we discover an adapter needed to attach said components were missing, and apparently had been for quite some time. Now, said adapter is for attaching 2.5″ (notebook) sized hard drives to 3.5″ (desktop) sized IDE cables, so it is not outside of reason that some place local might have something similar. But it is kind of a long shot. So we call the nearest place. “Nope, maybe Fry’s.” (paraphrased.) So we play phone tag with Fry’s (apparently the person in that department is quite busy) and eventually find out that they do. So we get directions and head down to Fry’s Electronics.

Well, after lunch. And after dropping our beleaguered production manager back at the airport.

I was impressed with Fry’s. My boss was even more impressed. Mostly I think it was the do-it-yourself electronic components; one of these places would be handy for some of our prototype work. (I don’t think the $0.35 diet coke machines hurt either. My boss drinks a LOT of diet coke.) Unfortunately, it started in southern California and hasn’t gotten more than a few states away. Their web site also doesn’t seem to sell anything that you couldn’t get at a couple thousand other web stores. The place we saw did have quite the collection though. Everything from computers to software to blenders to home theater.

Anyway, we found the adapter. They even had two in stock, and we got them both for good measure. So we drive back to the convention center. At least it’s a scenic drive, with the highways running between rolling hills and misty seas.

So we get back to the convention center. After bending a pin on the non-keyed adapter to fit our keyed cable, (the adapters we had been using are of much higher quality) we plug it in and Horray! The first unit works. So we spend a few minutes making sure everything is okay, and then we turn on the second unit, and… Hmm… never seen a computer do THAT before.

Perhaps I should explain the circumstances of this poor computer…

1) A few weeks before the first show, we realized we weren’t going to have a video system. So, after some experimenting with PC104 systems, we order five motherboards of the type we used for an earlier game. They are dutifully shipped to the Chicago area.
2) The systems are put together and mounted to a metal plate and a wooden board, along with a power supply and hard drive. I develop on one and the other four are shipped out to Las Vegas to be assembled into the cabinets.
3) The four units are assembled, put on a truck, and taken to a convention center in Las Vegas. After the show, they get put back on a truck and returned to our Las Vegas office.
4) Our office strips most of the parts out of three games and sends the parts back to us in Chicago area.
5) Second show coming up. (the current one) Still no video. They only want two games this time, so grab two sets of parts, including PC’s, and ship them back to Las Vegas.
6) Two games are assembled, put onto a U-HAUL and, trucked to San Diego.
7) We now rejoin our heroes on the San Diego convention floor.

Warning: Technobabble. Proceed at your own risk.

The computer takes several second to start up. (Like, ten. Normally you hear the beep as soon as you apply power.) It then reports that it has the correct amount of RAM, but that there is no RAM in the slots in which RAM is installed. (Normally it doesn’t bother to mention that there is or isn’t anything in a slot.) It then reports a CMOS checksum error, resets all the BIOS settings, and comes to halt awaiting User Intervention. You can tell it to continue, but windows takes so long to load that I quickly give up.

Technobabble largely subsided.

This user intervenes as best he is able, and after poking at it for awhile and reseating what few removable components there are, declares the motherboard Officially Beyond All Hope.

Fortunately, we have one more in Las Vegas and two more in the main office.

Las Vegas has gone home (and we will get booted out of the convention center shortly.)

Incidentally, the San Diego time is approximately 4:30pm. Chicago time: 6:30pm. Somebody picks up the phone on the first ring. (Have I ever mentioned that we have a few workaholics?) Somebody find the computers. Somebody packs them and ships them next day. Hooray for Somebody. Hooray for day over. ;^)

We head down to Anthony’s, a highly recommended seafood restaurant, for dinner. I still can’t say I really like seafood, but I’d eat there again without complaint. I had about the same reaction to a large mushroom with crab meat appetizer, which is still a lot better than I’ve had to mushrooms on pizza. ;^)

But the restaurant is entirely over the ocean, (well, bay) and we were right by a glass wall facing over the water.

The sea is like a great mass of serpents
slithering one within the others
coils advancing and retreating
locked in immortal battle with the air,
a conflict drawn for all eternity.
Time and again the serpents offer
sinuous sides to the unmoving front,
yet never consider to bite or hiss,
revenged instead upon the shore.
The land found more yielding,
with great patience, to wide
gaping mouths that crash and roar.

After dinner we made another trip to Fry’s. It was token effort to see if they had the right motherboard just in case we needed it, but really I think my boss just wanted to wander around with worrying about getting back to fix something. ;^) Even if they had the right model, a different BIOS revision may have required re-installing windows to get rid of at least one known artifact. (A mouse cursor in the middle of the screen on a game that doesn’t use a cursor.)

After that we headed over the way-high bridge (did I mention we saw two aircraft carriers and a cruise liner in the bay?) to Coronado (almost)Island. After Very Carefully and with Great Planning driving most of the way around on residential streets, we stopped on the far (ocean) side and went out to the beach. It was long since night (at least 9pm San Diego time) but the moon was nearly full. We walked across the sand to the water’s edge, gazing at beached seaweed and little baby waves in the moonlight. I suppose some day I’ll have to go back to the sea during the daytime, on a winder day, and wearing something I wouldn’t mind getting soaked. ;^)

We continued up the beach and wandered around and through the Hotel Del Coronado. The outside is reputed to have inspired the towers of OZ, which I could believe. Absolutely beautiful woodwork inside, and decor generally matching the look of it; maybe original, maybe not.

That was another late night. Thursday morning we picked up the computers at the hotel, checked out (minus my travel shampoo, whoops) and head down to the convention center. The new computer is much more cooperative, and everything goes pretty well. Except for one minor glitch, almost certainly on the server side, and therefore not my direct problem.

After that we pretty much wandered aimlessly around the show floor until noon, and then left for the airport. We had a much more reasonable time allowance, and a much closer airport. The airline, though I can’t really fault them, was not quite so convenient. The incoming plane for the next gate over had ‘some problems.’ Those people got our plane. A couple other bumps may have occurred, and eventually we got somebody’s plane, scheduled for 40 minutes later, and departing at least 30 minutes after that. We had been scheduled for a 55 minutes layover at Phoenix. A very talkative girl who flew to Phoenix a lot insisted they never left on time. Well, almost never. ;^)

So, round about 6:00pm Phoenix time (8:00 Chicago) we board a fairly empty plane that we assume was provisioned especially for the people who missed their connecting flight back to Midway. So, we took off, still in the daylight, and popped through a sheet of white fluffy clouds, which were rather pretty. This was a good thing, since my book, The Gate to Woman’s Country by Sheri Tepper, was on it’s last pages – I guess I need about 400 (100 more) for a trip like this. ;^)

The plane flies above the landscape
of rolling hills and valleys,
passing carelessly through airy mountains
to behold misty lakes, wherein are glimpsed,
like reflections or half imagined dreams,
strange vistas of earth and stone,
mirrors of those above.


Where once long desired
the joyous green of spring,
now gives pause in silent awe,
the stately fractal barrenness of trees.

This idea can go ‘way now.

In Hapkido, we say that the style is based on three principles: the circle principle, the water principle, and the harmony principle. (Which I’m forgetting the Korean names of.) I know some of their meanings, but I can’t claim to fully understand all the implications.

Now cast the spell of binding, the notion and the word that echos in my haunted head, without rhyme or reason, a perfect expression of the universal pattern:

I’ve got circles in my movements,
I’ve got water in my soul,
harmony in mind,
and steady breath control.